Teens and young adults gather for a rally organized by AGBU-AYA, 1960.

Overcoming and Becoming

The AGBU Lebanon community through changing times


Established in 1910, AGBU Lebanon was one of the earliest outposts of the flagship AGBU, formed in 1906 in Cairo, Egypt.  The chapter found its footing out of a necessity to serve the urgent needs of a growing Armenian community made up of destitute genocide survivors and orphans suffering from malnutrition and disease, poor sanitation and other adversities such as lack of education and employment opportunities. Fortunately, AGBU was in a position to help change the trajectory of their broken lives with practical solutions that would yield positive long-term results.

These efforts set the stage for what has become an exemplary model of organization, motivation, innovation and versatility among Armenian non-profits in the Middle East, and to a large degree, the Diaspora writ large.

AGBU Lebanon’s capacity to help transform a forsaken people into proud Armenians and productive Lebanese citizens has touched every generation. Whether an AGBU scout, athlete, teammate, student or scholarship recipient, player in a band, theater or dance troupe, Lebanese Armenian youth come away with a greater sense of Armenian identity, purpose and confidence. They continue to rise to the top of their classes and professions, and most important, give back to the community and country that helped restore their humanity and dignity.

As the years progressed, AGBU Lebanon developed the resources and know-how to respond to national crises that demanded swift action to deliver public health services through its dispensaries, make up for shortfalls in government services with safety-net assistance, and equally valuable, be the face of optimism and hope in dark and troubled times. Stories abound about how AGBU Lebanon served the community tirelessly by day but found the energy to organize benefit galas and performances by night, lifting spirits and emphasizing the beauty in life that togetherness and mutual support bring.

Many of the sprawling modern AGBU community centers and accredited schools that thrive with creative energy speak to the trust shown by their namesake benefactors in choosing AGBU as a worthy custodian of the rich Western Armenian culture—preserving, promoting and advancing Armenian scholarship, arts and traditions in relevant and meaningful ways.

In recent years, AGBU Lebanon has taken the lead in organizing cross cultural, international events in support of human rights, genocide prevention and women’s issues, showcasing the intellectual talents in the community and sharing it with peers and audiences regionally and worldwide.

Today, the AGBU Lebanon legacy drives hundreds of volunteers, committee members, Asbeds, Ladies Guild members and thousands of beneficiaries to prove that self-reliance, hard work, team spirit, bold enterprise, inventive daring, and a can-do outlook can make all things possible. And for every hurdle and hardship overcome, the community becomes all the stronger and more resilient for the effort.

The illustrious story of AGBU Lebanon is captured in the images and commentary curated from the AGBU Archives.

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Children of Kelegian-Sisvan orphanage.
Children of Kelegian-Sisvan orphanage.
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An AGBU trade school for orphaned girls.
An AGBU trade school for orphaned girls.
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A couple from the Kelegian-Sisvan orphanage start a new life together.
A couple from the Kelegian-Sisvan orphanage start a new life together.
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AGBU-AYA Antranik youth perform in “Club Fanfare” brass band.
AGBU-AYA Antranik youth perform in “Club Fanfare” brass band.
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Scouts from the AGBU Zahleh Chapter learn the value of community and service.
Scouts from the AGBU Zahleh Chapter learn the value of community and service.
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Maestro Barkev Barsoumian and the AYA Orchestra and Choir.
Maestro Barkev Barsoumian and the AYA Orchestra and Choir.
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Armenians from Upper Mesopotamia gather in Lebanon before leaving for Soviet Armenia.
Armenians from Upper Mesopotamia gather in Lebanon before leaving for Soviet Armenia.
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A daughter of a genocide survivor peeks through the window of one of the new dwellings in Bourj Hammoud.
A daughter of a genocide survivor peeks through the window of one of the new dwellings in Bourj Hammoud.
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Second-generation Lebanese-Armenian youth learn the shoemaking trade.
Second-generation Lebanese-Armenian youth learn the shoemaking trade.
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One of AGBU medical dispensaries distributes nutrient rich cod liver oil to students.
One of AGBU medical dispensaries distributes nutrient rich cod liver oil to students.
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Powered milk also became part of the daily diet for child development.
Powered milk also became part of the daily diet for child development.
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AGBU-AYA Beirut and Damascus Woman’s Basketball teams helped promote athletics for Armenian girls.
AGBU-AYA Beirut and Damascus Woman’s Basketball teams helped promote athletics for Armenian girls.
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In 1971, Lebanese President Frangieh (center right) welcomed AGBU President Alex Manoogian (center) and a delegation of prominent Armenian community members as a gesture of respect and good will for the Lebanese-Armenians who were coming into their own in the wider society.
In 1971, Lebanese President Frangieh (center right) welcomed AGBU President Alex Manoogian (center) and a delegation of prominent Armenian community members as a gesture of respect and good will for the Lebanese-Armenians who were coming into their own in the wider society.
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AGBU-AYA Cycling Team (1975).
AGBU-AYA Cycling Team (1975).
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Community Leader Yervant Demirdjian examines architectural model of the planned Alex Manoogian Cultural Center.
Community Leader Yervant Demirdjian examines architectural model of the planned Alex Manoogian Cultural Center.
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AGBU-AYA Song and Dance group performs at the fabled Casino du Liban (1964).
AGBU-AYA Song and Dance group performs at the fabled Casino du Liban (1964).
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Mother Teresa visits the AGBU Manoogian Center which was housing the makeshift trauma center at the Manoogian Center.
Mother Teresa visits the AGBU Manoogian Center which was housing the makeshift trauma center at the Manoogian Center.
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AGBU Asbeds, after one of many strategy sessions for ensuring community safety and welfare amid the violence.
AGBU Asbeds, after one of many strategy sessions for ensuring community safety and welfare amid the violence.
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AGBU Asbeds, after one of many strategy sessions for ensuring community safety and welfare amid the violence. 
AGBU Asbeds, after one of many strategy sessions for ensuring community safety and welfare amid the violence. 
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Despite the hardships of the war, the AGBU-AYA Scouts Golden Jubilee parade marches on (1986).
Despite the hardships of the war, the AGBU-AYA Scouts Golden Jubilee parade marches on (1986).
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Armenian Embassy in Lebanon, donated in honor of community leader Noubar Nazarian.
Armenian Embassy in Lebanon, donated in honor of community leader Noubar Nazarian.
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The construction of the AGBU Demirdjian Center.
The construction of the AGBU Demirdjian Center.
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In 2000, jubilant AGBU-AYA champions of the Lebanese National Basketball League are presented with the coveted Cup by the Lebanese Basketball Federation’s president.
In 2000, jubilant AGBU-AYA champions of the Lebanese National Basketball League are presented with the coveted Cup by the Lebanese Basketball Federation’s president.
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Cycling for “I Care I Can”  fundraiser for war-weary Syrian Armenians.
Cycling for “I Care I Can” fundraiser for war-weary Syrian Armenians.
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AGBU FOCUS 2017 in Lebanon brought hundreds of international peers to celebrate.
AGBU FOCUS 2017 in Lebanon brought hundreds of international peers to celebrate.
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AGBU volunteers and scouts organize the finish line at the annual Beirut Marathon.
AGBU volunteers and scouts organize the finish line at the annual Beirut Marathon.
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In 2015, the Armenian National Philharmonic and Hover Choir showcased at Lebanon’s Beiteddine Art Festival.
In 2015, the Armenian National Philharmonic and Hover Choir showcased at Lebanon’s Beiteddine Art Festival.
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The AGBU marching band fosters leadership among youth.
The AGBU marching band fosters leadership among youth.
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Since 2017, AGBU Lebanon has organized international events in observation of Dec. 9 UN Genocide Prevention Day.
Since 2017, AGBU Lebanon has organized international events in observation of Dec. 9 UN Genocide Prevention Day.
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After the 2020 explosion in Lebanon, AGBU’s Disaster Unit set up a 24 hour Hotline.
After the 2020 explosion in Lebanon, AGBU’s Disaster Unit set up a 24 hour Hotline.

Originally published in the 2021-12-01​ issue of AGBU Magazine. end character

About the AGBU Magazine

AGBU Magazine is of the most widely circulated English language Armenian magazines in the world, available in print and digital format. Each issue delivers insights and perspective on subjects and themes relating to the Armenian world, accompanied by original photography, exclusive high-profile interviews, fun facts and more.